A dreamer is one who has fond hopes. Darleen Wheelington is definitely a dreamer. Her dreams of service began to materialize twenty-one years ago when she convinced a local banker to finance the first of many dreams.
Shortly after high school she dreamed of buying land and building a pet grooming business. Hopefully the public would come and she would accomplish her dream. Wheelington even knew what the name would be: Waggin’ Tails. With little more than the support of family and friends, combined with a passionate love for dogs, her dream soon became a reality. She bought land and with the help of her brother, built a 500 square-foot building, and on April 1, 1986, Waggin’ Tails opened up. The customers did come, and the rest is history! Wheelington soon outgrew her tiny building. Her pet grooming business along with other ventures now fill a 3000 square foot building and are known as Waggin’ Tails. She has traded in a safe and secure factory job for a career helping those who are unable to help themselves–animals.
Waggin’ Tails offers grooming for all breeds of dogs, indoor air-conditioned pet boarding, and a large exercise yard where the dogs are let out four times a day for exercise. The dogs even have a “king canine suite,” where they can relax in their favorite easy chair and watch big screen TV! Waggin Tails offers a full line of unique pet products. Wheelington, who is also a breed behavioral consultant, teaches dog obedience training classes as well.
Soon, she began forging her reputation in the dog world by showing dogs in the conformation ring. Her first show dog, Molly, was a Labrador Retriever only a mother could love, but she was enough to give Wheelington “dog show fever.” In her career as an owner/handler, Wheelington has earned many championships in conformation and obedience on multiple breeds of dogs such as Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Boxers and Pointers. One of her greatest contributions to the sport of dog-showing was owning and breeding world-class Standard Dachshunds. In 1997 she became the owner of an American Kennel Club (AKC) “Dam of Excellence;” that is, she owned and bred the dog that tied the record as the mother of more champion Standard Dachshunds than any other in AKC history. That record stood for over forty years until Wheelington’s CH Metronome’s Lady In Red SL (Redi) came along and tied it.
Wheelarkk,( Wheelington’s Kennel Name) , breeds and shows purebred champion Dachshunds and Pointers. Her dogs have won numerous prizes and are well known around the country. The Wheelarkk line has produced over twenty champion Dachshunds alone. Eventually her experience in showing dogs spread beyond her personal reputation and began to benefit the Camden area both monetarily and in terms of Camden’s reputation throughout the world.
The S.A.K.C. (South Arkansas Kennel Club) of Camden, Arkansas, co-founded by Wheelington, Darla Stivers, Betty Rigby, D.V.M., and Robin Vaughan in 1989 has brought many purebred dog shows to South Arkansas. Because dog shows are the second oldest sport in America next to horse racing, there was an obvious need for a club in South Arkansas. The SAKC began hosting annual dog shows in Camden every February. Since the first SAKC dog show in 2000, thousands of visitors have come to Camden and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars here. Wheelington repeatedly has proven to the people of Camden that we have a great deal to offer. As a result of her efforts, dog show people all over the world write “Go to Camden, Arkansas” on their calendars every February. Wheelington uses her love for dogs to promote her home–Camden. In 2006 SAKC completed its seventh back to back dog show and obedience trial. These events brought an estimated 5,000 people to Camden each year, thus strengthening the economy of this small town. Although over 800 dogs competed in the show last year (2006), next year’s show promises to be an even greater success. Her goal is 1,000 competing dogs.
For a longtime there had been a stray animal problem in Ouachita County, and someone needed to do something about it. Wheelington recognized the need and began what turned out to be a ten year process of forming an organization and gaining enough funding for an animal shelter. She was the driving force behind this organization to help animals. She started up the Ouachita Animal Shelter Information Society, better known as OASIS Animal Shelter. Through the efforts of Wheelington and others involved with OASIS, hundreds of dogs and cats have been saved and given a second chance. Through various OASIS programs, an indeterminate number of future stray dogs and cats have been prevented. Her work with OASIS is not restricted by county or even state lines. She has spear-headed placement of stray dogs in Colorado, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, California, and Florida. She even reunited eight owners and dogs who were victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. O.A.S.I.S. (Ouachita Animal Shelter Information Society) was founded in August of 1990.
“People would literally bring litters of puppies and put them on my doorstep,” said Wheelington. Endeavoring to fulfill that need, she and other concerned citizens founded the OASIS Animal Shelter. OASIS is 100% funded and managed by private donations of money and time by the citizens on Ouachita County. OASIS is a 501C3 non-profit organization.
She plays still another role in taking care of animals. She is a certified Animal Cruelty Investigator, one of only a few in the state of Arkansas. In this role, she has been a board member of the Arkansas Animal Control Association and has taught classes for animal control officers. On the regional level, she is a member of the Association of Certified Cruelty Investigators serving Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.
She also supports various community activities and has written a dog-training book. Wheelington is also a judge in non-licensed dog shows and competitions.
Wheelington is quite modest about all that she has done for animals and her community. It is obvious to anyone who meets her that her purpose is not self serving; she does it all “For the love of dogs”. She continues to start new projects and involves others.
But there are areas of her life that do not include animals. She is an active board member of the American Cancer Society and Vice-President of Camden Noon Lions Club. She is also a member of the Camden Leadership Class of 2005 and Victory Church, where she plays guitar with the Praise Team.
She will be the first person to tell you she has not accomplished any of these things by herself. But, as her friends and family say, “We would never have had the motivation if it were not for her. She has the dreams; all we do is help her accomplish them.”
Random quotes from Wheelington:
“Over the years, the most important thing I have learned about training a dog is that the OWNER must first be trained. Be fair and kind to the dog, but most of all, love and spend time with the dog.”
“I dedicate my love for dogs to the memory of Brownie Michelle. Brownie was my best friend who spent twenty-four years with me. In all those years, Brownie taught me a lot about dogs.”
My personal favorite: “Train, don’t complain.”
“A trained dog is a loved dog.”
“The dogs won’t do their homework; the owner must do it.”
On the subject of the OASIS animal shelter: “If given a choice, a dog would prefer to be in a loving family with a good home rather than walking the streets hungry, scared, and sick”
Wheelington attributes her success to the following people and four-legged friends:
Brownie Michelle Wheelington, a terrier mix who lived to be twenty-four years old.
LaVerne O. Anderson, whom Wheelington considers her mentor. Anderson has spent her life working for the betterment of dogs and helping people with their dogs. She is an inspiration to Wheelington.
Her Mom, who is now deceased, and Dad, whom she loves dearly. She appreciates all the support and love they have shown throughout her life.
Darla Stivers, a special person in Wheelington’s life, who co-owns the business and helps take care of their nine four-legged “kids.” Thanks, Darla, for all you do!
All her friends who have unselfishly given their time, labor, and moral support toward building Waggin’ Tails into what it is today.
Most importantly, Wheelington gives credit to GOD for all the blessings in her life and thinks it is no mistake that GOD gave us dogs to learn how to be more like Him and learn how to serve him.. GOD spelled backwards is DOG Depend On GOD
Wheelington is a shining example of a successful female entrepreneur. The result of her hard work during the past twenty-one years sends a message to all: dreams do come true…with a lot of hard work and an undying passion for what you believe in.
J C Productions, Webmaster for ArkansasDogs.com